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  • Writer's pictureThe AOE Team

What are the stages of crisis management?

What is a crisis?

A crisis is a sudden and unexpected disruption that …

  • Interrupts normal operations

  • Requires an immediate, coordinated management response

  • Is likely to require decision-making actions at the highest level of the company

  • Involves notifying agencies, neighborhoods and/or other outside parties

  • Has the potential to attract extensive news media and public attention to the company


When it comes to causes of crisis in an organization, there isn’t always someone or something to point a finger at: a crisis is not always avoidable. Business has many types of crises, from internal issues like layoffs or job site accidents to external issues like natural disasters. Examples of crises in an organization could be …

  • Fire

  • Explosion

  • Chemical spill or release

  • Jobsite accident

  • Groundwater contamination

  • Crisis at adjacent facility

  • Natural disaster

  • Product or service failure

  • Terrorism

  • Personnel-related incident

  • Layoffs

  • Office closing

  • Transportation accident

  • News event related to employee

  • Pandemic


Although a crisis can be inevitable, you have a not-so-secret weapon: preparation. Preparing for potential crisis through your crisis communication efforts now in a pre-crisis stage will help your organization move quickly and respond with thought and intention if and when a crisis occurs.


What are the stages of crisis management?

The stages of crisis management begin before there is any actual crisis development (remember, be prepared!) and are ongoing even in the weeks, months and years following a crisis. Your organization and plan should be ever-evolving and consider your current environment, employees, etc.


Consider the timeline for conflict and crisis management that applies to the various types of crises from personnel issues to natural disasters. The timeline should expand beyond just the days following the event, but the weeks, months and even years to follow. How can you learn from what happened? Let’s further examine the stages of crisis communications and management.


Pre-crisis Stage (Ideally, you will develop a crisis communication plan while not in a time of crisis)

  1. Monitor crisis risks: “What could go wrong here?” We mentioned a few potential crises in the previous section to get your ideas flowing. Unfortunately, no organization is immune to the threat of a crisis.

  2. Make decisions about how to handle potential risk: Reach a consensus on your approach, areas of concern, what constitutes a crisis and what the appropriate response is.

  3. Train people who will be involved: Assemble a team and have a kick-off meeting. Select the members of your Crisis Communications Team, define their roles and areas of responsibility, and assemble their contact information.

Crisis Stage (Impact phase of crisis)

  1. Collect and process information for crisis team decision-making: The first step of issues management is the analysis of the issues after they have become crises.

  2. Create and disseminate crisis messages: Assemble key messages and determine how to respond in the event of a crisis. Review how to deal with the media. Discuss how to involves employees and make them aware of corporate policy with regards to speaking with the media in a crisis.

Post-crisis Stage

  1. Assess the crisis management effort: What went well? What did not? What did you learn from this event? What would you do differently next time?

  2. Provide follow-up crisis messages as needed: Keep key groups (employees, stakeholders, clients, media) informed with appropriate messaging.


No matter what stage your organization currently finds itself in, AOE is here to help. AOE has deep expertise in developing crisis plans and will work with you to help build optimal communications for your employees, clients, customers and other interested parties—no matter what the crisis. For more information, reach out to us today and be sure to visit AOE’s Crisis Communications Microsite.

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